Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Fun

Saturday night I went to a friend's for a Halloween party - Chris' Second Annual Halloween Party. Last year's party was great. This one was even better.
I missed the first bit. Chris' one room apartment was full when I got there. So many people. I only actually knew a handful of them. All kinds of costumes were present. The standard vampires, witches, pirates, etc. as well as many very creative and unique ones.Can you guess what they are?Signing the box.
The ENTIRE apartment was decorated. The walls were all covered in black and decorated with a variety of things. A lot of things were made with his friend's pictures or are referring to his friends in one way or another.One wall was a graveyard, with epitaphs of all of Chris' friends. Mine said "Laura/ It's the only home she could keep..."The ceiling had a giant spider, and a whole bunch of bats.The bathroom had decorations (including a skeleton in the shower)and even the washing machine was involved! On the lid it said, "The Washer of DOOM/ caution: NOT for the faint of heart.... or kidneys...."And it wouldn't be complete without a fridge full of Vodka Jello shots!
At midnight we all headed outsideto avoid causing problems with the building super due to noise levels. At one point along the way, we encountered a little grandmother. She laughed so much. (Koreans don't do Halloween). She loved the guy with the box of candy attached to his belt and even went back to him a second time for some more candy. SO funny. I don't think she got the point of that costume. When she saw the flasher with the banana in his underwear, well, she laughed even harder.One of the soldier trio telling us where to go.
Toy guns here look pretty much like real guns. At home that is illegal. If you walked around with one, or pulled one out of your pocket you'd likely get shot, even if you were a kid and just playing. Most of the toy guns here shoot the little plastic ball pellets.It is a bit of a walk to the park but no one was complaining. Once in the park, Chris made a speech and then told a Halloween story using all of his friends' names. He is always very creative. Then there were the awards for the costumes for which we had all voted for earlier on (Chris had made ballots for it)- best, worst, sexiest, least sexy, most thrown together in 10 minutes, most likely to turn the host on, most likely to get one arrested, most likely to scare the pants off a Korean. After that was finished, there were some hand held fireworks (some aimed in the wrong direction but no one was hurt).Once the party in the park started winding down (well, once everyone started to get TOO cold), we started heading back up to the apartment for some more partying. A bunch of people left at that point (too tired, too cold, had to go, etc), so the noise levels weren't as much of an issue.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Korea... a "Danger Country" ?????

I read this a couple of days ago. I'm not surprised for the most part, but a bit, yes. I've always felt very safe here, at any hour day or night. I've been told by Korean friends to be careful, to not walk alone after dark, etc. All because they heard of a few instances where things did happen. I think that in relation to the population, it isn't so bad. The OECD Classificion DOES surprise me, a lot.
Rash of Violent Crimes Leaves Korean Women Frightened
Many Korea women are anxious these days after a series of murders, rapes and other crimes targeting women made headlines recently.
Last August, two female office workers were abducted and murdered by illegal taxi drivers near Hongik University in Seoul, and in September a police officer raped two women in a subway parking lot late at night, stealing some W19 million (US$1=W917) in cash and valuables.
Earlier this month, a man in his 30s was arrested for raping nine women who were returning home at night in Seongbuk district in northern Seoul. Women now are increasingly afraid to catch a cab at night or even to go out.
With the surging growth of women in the Korean work force, economic participation by females has reached 54.8 percent. However public security measures to protect women at night remain neglected. According to the National Police Agency, more than a third of all violent crimes including murder, robbery, and rape occur between midnight and four a.m.
Korea is classified a "danger country" in terms of women's public safety by the 30-member OECD. According to the OECD's Social and Welfare Statistics for 2007, the homicide rate for Korean women is 1.7 per every 100,000 people, the third highest after the U.S. (2.7) and Iceland (2.2).
Experts say it's urgent that safety be ensured in cabs, the most frequently used means of transportation for working women at night. Most cabs including private and company-run ones are considered safe but measures must be taken against illegal contract cabs that are often used in crimes.
Contract cabs refer to licensed cabs that can be rented from an owner or a company for around W100,000 a day. They allow criminals to act as cab divers as long as they can pay. An estimated 5,000 contract cabs cruise the streets of Seoul.
"While more than 80 percent of people in Korea catch cabs on the street, most people in other countries have to call," said Park Yong-hun from the Coalition for Transportation Culture of Korea. "We should pursue a system for women-only call cabs."
Many also point out the need to step up public safety measures in secluded places like parking lots and alleys by setting up watch posts and CCTV cameras. "Women returning home late at night are the easiest targets for criminals, since they look for vulnerable victims in places where they can most easily commit crimes," said researcher Hwang Gi-tae of the Korea Institute of Criminal Justice Policy.
( )


If you ever heard my mom describing how our cats always wake her up (well, I think my cat, specifically), THIS is exactly what you would picture in your mind.

[thanks Cairogal!]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Toilet House in Korea

I'm going to have to check this out sometime (if I can)!!! It's near Suwon, just south of Seoul (connected on the subway, though).
Clean loo campaigner to open toilet-shaped home
by Lim Chang-Won Thu Oct 11, 12:54 AM ET
SEOUL (AFP) - Sim Jae-Duck was born in a restroom and now he plans to live and die in one -- a 1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.
Sim will open what is billed as the world's one and only toilet house on November 11 to mark the launch of his World Toilet Association.
The 419-square-metre (4,508-sq-foot) concrete and glass structure is rising on the site of Sim's former home in his native city of Suweon, 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of Seoul.
Before he moves in, anyone who is flush with funds can rent it for 50,000 dollars a day -- with proceeds going to his campaign to provide poor countries with proper sanitary facilities.
Apart from two bedrooms, two guestrooms and other rooms, the two-storey house -- of course -- features three deluxe toilets. Unlike the giant "toilet" in which they are located, they will not be see-through affairs.
"A showcase bathroom screened by a glass wall is located in its centre, while other toilets have elegant fittings or water conservation devices," Sim told AFP.
The showcase loo will feature a device producing a mist to make users feel secure. An electronic sensor will raise the lid automatically when people enter, and there will also be music for patrons.
The house, complete with a stream and small garden in front, is named Haewoojae, meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries".
Sim's birth in a restroom was in line with traditional beliefs.
"It was intentional. My mother followed advice from my grandmother that people born in restrooms will enjoy long lives," said the 74-year-old.
Sim's campaign began during his term as Suweon mayor from 1995 to 2002. His drive to transform toilets into "clean and beautiful resting places imbued with culture" earned him the nickname "Mayor Toilet".
Public restrooms in the city were jazzed up with paintings, fresh flowers or even small gardens. His achievements prompted Sim to launch the Korea Toilet Association in 1999, in time for South Korea's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup three years later.
Then he decided to take his clean toilets drive worldwide. The proposed World Toilet Association might be seen to rival squeaky-clean Singapore, where the World Toilet Organisation is based, but Sim has said the work of the two bodies will not overlap.
Indeed, he hopes his toilet house will highlight the global need for better sanitation.
"My family has already agreed to preserve this house as a symbol of South Korea's new toilet culture after my death," he said. "The house will be remembered as an example of saving mankind from diseases and protecting the environment."
Sim, a member of parliament, will host the World Toilet Association's inaugural meeting which he hopes will attract 300 representatives from 70 countries.
On the final day he plans to invite all participants to his house, which he said "envisions a new concept to place toilets in the centre of our life".
Sim said his campaign will focus on setting international standards for clean public toilets, adding that countries such as Mongolia, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil are actively supporting it.
Epidemics caused by poor sanitation worldwide cost two million lives a year, he said. Worldwide, 2.6 billion people live without toilets. Elsewhere, poorly designed flush toilets waste vast amounts of potential drinking water, he added.
A future project in his active mind is IT-based toilets, where people can check their health or surf the Internet.
"Toilets were once regarded as stinking and dirty places. Not any more. They must be treated as the sanctuary that protects human health," Sim said.
For more pictures and info, check out[Also posted on outhouses etc]

a job

Well, I did find a job... only, it doesn't start until November 26th. I should get my home the weekend before that.
Right now I have to wait for my VISA issuance number so that I can go to some other country on a VISA run. The process here takes up to 2 weeks. I wish that I could actually plan something ahead of time. Oh well.
I have decided that I will go to Cambodia for my VISA run. I think a couple of weeks there would be a nice little vacation from Korea.
The job:
A fairly well known ESL company that has schools that cater to all ages. I will be working at one of their kindy schools in Seoul. It is in Apgujeong, which is the posh (richest?) area of the city. It is such a nice area; Very clean and modern; coffee shops on every corner - I think I saw about 4 or 5 Starbucks in the area when I was wandering around, plus tons of other well known, and many not so well known coffee shops.
Apparently they even have a cafe called Igloo that is frequented by about 30 breeds of dog, while on breaks from appearing in movies and dramas and the like (or so it says in the lonely planet guide). I'll have to go there sometime to check it out.
For now I'm floating around sleeping on friends' floors or taking over their beds. Not something that I particularly enjoy, but something that I cannot avoid for the time being.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Sergeja and I had an interesting taxi ride home from Itaewon Saturday night (well, early Sunday, I suppose). A little sign hanging above the rear view mirror states "Korean taxi is like a Hard Rock Cafe on Wheels." The taxi was decked out with old records and such. The back window display base was even an old record player. There was a little screen between the front seats for the back seat passengers. When we got in, he had Elvis playing. On the way, he handed us a couple of articles that he had laminated; about his taxi, of course. One of them was an article from the Stars And Stripes, the US Army newspaper:
Korean taxi is like a Hard Rock Cafe on wheels
By Erik Slavin, and Hwang Hae-rym, Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Tuesday, April 24, 2007
It’s almost 1 a.m. on a Saturday and a grateful American hails a taxi in the midst of strong competition near Yongsan Garrison in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood.
He notices the rock memorabilia anchored to the ceiling and doors while giving the driver directions.
Shortly afterward, the sound of 50,000 screaming fans bursts from the taxi’s speakers with stadium-like clarity. A TV screen pops out of the center console.
Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name.
For the cost of regular taxi fare, Cho Young-ho gives servicemembers and others a veritable Hard Rock Cafe on wheels — minus the $10 hamburger — while they drive toward their destination.
Cho worked as an amplifier technician before beginning driving his own taxi 15 years ago. Music soon became a passion; he began searching for rare recordings in markets and secondhand stores throughout Seoul.
He added the audio equipment and decorations about four years ago, to rave reviews from servicemembers.
“They are usually very amazed and enthusiastic. Some go mad, really!” Cho said. “Their positive reactions bring me a lot of joy, too.”
Cho says he’s had some problems with passengers leaving without paying or roughing up his taxi. But overall, he says he often enjoys Americans most among his foreign passengers.
“The American passengers are mostly open-minded, so generous and sincerely appreciate my effort, including an unexpected tip,” Cho said. “Above all, they know how to enjoy the music from their hearts.”
Cho says he keeps a ready stock of all kinds of musical styles, although he’s noticed trends for requests among age groups.
Younger people in their 20s already have plenty they can listen to on the radio, Cho said.
Older customers’ preferences often get left off the airwaves, so they appreciate Cho’s vast selection much more, he said.
Bon Jovi ranks high for foreigners in their 30s, Cho says.
Foreigners in the 40s tend to request The Eagles, while those in their 50s ask for Simon and Garfunkel, he said.
South Koreans often request “Living Next to Door to Alice” by 1970s British rock band Smokie, he said.
In recent years, a new wave of immigrants has moved into Itaewon, and many are from countries that don’t have the same musical tastes and connections.
“My golden days when I had real fun along with my Americans passengers in Itaewon is becoming history,” Cho said. “I miss those days.”
However, there are still enough around to make Cho’s ride a far different experience from the average taxi.
“My language skills stop me from having a long communication with a foreign passengers,” Cho said. “But through the music, we can share our hearts together.”

2007 Seoul International Fireworks Festival and after activities

Saturday evening was a huge fireworks festival in Seoul. The fireworks display was put on by 3 different countries:19:30~19:45 Japan fireworks team's introduction and show19:55~20:10 U.S.A fireworks team's introduction and show20:20~20:45 Korea fireworks team's introduction and show
They had a stage set up (I think) on Youinaru Station, but we just watched from the north side of the river near Yongsan. We had a nice little spot in the grass and vegetation along side the walking path.
When the fireworks were over, we made our way to Itaewon. First stop was a little Mexican restaurant called Taco Amigo. My Chicken Burrito was very good. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well.Then we all went to the Bungalow, a cozy tropical lounge up behind the Hamilton Hotel.A tropical bar wouldn't be complete with nice white sand to tantalize your toes.They also have a room with swings, an outdoor spa to dangle your legs in in the warmer months, and a hammock.Tom tried a daquiri. A great summer drink, but not the best for a cold evening!Outside, when we left the Bungalow, Richard found a discarded ice sculpure and, of course, had to play with it.

jobless and homeless

Well... This sucks.
For now I am jobless and homeless. My life here is all in boxes stacked up in a friend's home in Seoul. As her home is only one small room, my stuff is taking up about half of it. : I'm sleeping on the floor space that is left.
I'm applying for many jobs and going on a few interviews here and there. I'm sticking to those I can find within Seoul.
Some offers are for starting ASAP, some don't start until anywhere from early to late November. Anything after that is way too late for me.
I'll let you know when I do finally get a job and new home.
It is depressing having to live out of a suitcase.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Condoms, anyone?

Condom Experts to Gather in Korea Around 100 experts in the area of condom standards from over 50 countries around the world will gather in Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju next Monday. They will attend a five-day long conference organized by the International Organization for Standardization to discuss the quality and size of condoms. Korean firms account for the lion’s share of the condom industry around the world, a factor that has led Korea to host the conference. Globally, 80 companies have facilities to produce 12 billion condoms a year, equivalent to W1.1 trillion (US$1=W916). Of the 80 companies, Korea’s Unidus, Dongkuk Trading and Hankook Latex account for 30 percent of the global market, making Korea a sure no.1 in the world.
The conference is expected to focus more on enhancing quality and safety of condoms rather than size, since there already exists a global standard for large, medium and small condoms. At present, condoms 49 mm in width and a minimum of 170 mm in length are small, 53 mm by 170 mm medium, and 57mm by 205 mm large. Large ones are generally being sold in the U.S. and Europe. In Korea, the most popular size changed to medium from small about five years ago.
To further raise the effectiveness of condoms as the best protection against AIDS, period of circulation is likely to be reduced to three or four years from the current five along with tightened quality inspection. In the global condom market, low-priced condoms from China, Malaysia and India are threatening high-priced ones from Korea and other countries. In this light, shoring up the quality standards of condoms may prove an advantage for Korean firms. ( )

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

La Tavola

La Tavola is an excellent Italian restaurant in Itaewon (123 33 Itaewon 1 Dongsan Gu Seoul, Korea). It is not cheap, but it is definitely worth it. The pizzas are all thin crust, made it a big wood fired brick oven and are served on wooden platters. I've been there 3 times now and loved it every time. Can't go too often, though, as it doesn't help the budget.Insalata Mista - Mixed Seasonal Salad and Fresh Tomato (8,000 Won): Not bad. The dressing and vegetables were slightly different each time.They have Canada Dry GingerAle, though a bit pricy. For some reason, it isn't very easy to find here. When ever I think of it, I am reminded of Egypt, though. When ever I told anyone in Egypt that I was Canadian, the first thing they said was "Canada Dry Never Die". Strange that in the entire 3 months that I spent there, I only saw it once, at one little hole in the wall convenience store.Pizza Vegetariana - green peppers, mushrooms, black olives, onions, fresh spinach, mozzarella, tomato sauce (18,000 Won): excellent.
I also love their Pizza Ai Funghi - button mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato sauce (16,000 Won)Mousse al Cioccolato e Cioccolato Bianco - Chocolate Mousse with White Chocolate: When it first came out, I was thinking "It is SO SMALL!!!" It is not cheap, but it is SO worth it. It is quite rich, so anything bigger would have been too much.
They have a very well layed out website, including the full menu, if you want to see more.

Parkinson's Disease in Korea

Very interesting. I wonder why the numbers are so high.

Korea's Parkinson's Patients Often Misdiagnosed
Korea has more Parkinson's disease patients per capita than any other country in the world, but 70 percent are misunderstood as suffering from normal aging effects or senile dementia and are not receiving proper treatment.
In June and July of this year, Prof. Chung Hae-kwan from Sungkyunkwan University's School of Medicine, with support from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, studied 2,238 seniors over 65 in Gangneung.
According to the study, there are 2,060 to 2,993 Parkinson's patients for every 100,000 seniors over 65 in Korea. By sex, there are 807 for every 100,000 senior men and 2,020 for every 100,000 senior women.
When adjusted to include seniors over 60, the figure reaches at least 1,252.7 Parkinson's patients per 100,000 in Korea. This is the highest rate in the world.
In comparison, the figure in the U.S. is 429.5 per 100,000 over 60, 276.2 to 1,280.1 in China, 382.3 to 445.2 in Japan, 302.9 to 1,324.2 in Italy and 508.1 to 627.8 in the U.K.
However, only 33.3 percent of Parkinson's patients in Korea are diagnosed accurately, with the other 66.7 percent believed to be suffering from normal aging effects or dementia.
"When detected at an early stage, Parkinson's disease can be delayed considerably with proper treatment," Prof. Chung said. "But most patients are even misdiagnosed at hospitals, so raising public awareness of Parkinson's is urgently needed."
Parkinson's is a degenerative disorder in which an insufficient amount of dopamine in the brain leads to chronic shaking or muscle rigidity, and eventually death. Last year, there were 39,968 patients diagnosed with Parkinson's and receiving proper treatment in Korea.